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Jewish World Review June 29, 2001 / 8 Tamuz, 5761

Lewis A. Fein

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Consumer Reports

California Dreamin'?
Not really -- California, the so-called Golden State of national mythology and license plate trademark, is a lot dimmer these days - the energy crisis of which is only partially responsible. For amidst the sun and surf California is a land of failing public schools, racial politics and incompetent leadership. Harsh words, indeed. But California is no longer America's Eden, where even the late Governor Pat Brown could earn the admiration of his constituents while his successor, Ronald Reagan, could attain legendary status. Today these former political giants seem like nothing more than popular folklore, like exaggerated war stories or colorful fishing trips told by an eccentric uncle. Add Richard Nixon, child of Southern California's orange groves and vanquished opponent of Pat Brown's ("You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore"), and the average Californian's ignorance is complete: conservatism is dead.

Here in Los Angeles liberal predominance is particularly strong. After all, Hollywood is Clinton country, and conservatives are an endangered species. Not that La-La Land would ever displace Orange County as a hotbed of crime control, Second Amendment rights and tax relief. Yet Hollywood's past, like so much else within the Golden State, is one of overall restraint - regardless of whether one embraces Pat Brown as a hero or disowns Ronald Reagan as a villain.

Modern Hollywood no longer shares the cultural sensibilities of Brown or Reagan, where both men could look askance at campus radicalism and ask, "Is this the future of California, a collection of juvenile delinquents - for whom free speech is merely a buzzword for the groupthink imposed upon its naive, if no less atrociously attired, members?" Unfortunately, Hollywood is now merely another source of institutional support for liberalism's current agenda of affirmative action, high tobacco taxes and perpetual litigation.

So, the California envisioned by Brown and Reagan - even the one imagined by Walt Disney - is now a memory, overshadowed no doubt by the effects of a cultural neutron bomb: the state's buildings remain intact, while a new set of nihilistic values governs its schools and courts. In fact, California's glorious past of excellent yet affordable public education, not to mention judicial restraint, is now just another memory. The Golden State barely even remembers these things, preferring instead to affix the label "historic" to anything that, either culturally or intellectually, is simply old.

This cultural amnesia eventually breeds indifference. For example, if voters no longer remember - never mind whether they endorse - the politics of Brown or Reagan then this indifference yields extremism. Cultural sensibilities exit, and Barbara Boxer and Maxine Waters, two liberal extremists, assume the mantle of "leadership." Ironically, Mesdames Boxer and Waters now influence California's future, albeit one where English is almost a second language; racial separatism is admired, if not openly practiced; and tobacco consumption is considered sinful.

Today California is simply another Hollywood set piece. For example, the only actors familiar with military service - unlike, say, Jimmy Stewart or Clark Gable - are the veterans of Steven Spielberg's studio or Disney's "Pearl Harbor." The state's cultural sensibilities, like the films they emulate, are nothing more than a facsimile: a copy of courage, not an act of genuine heroism. The trend is universal, displacing tough pols with mediocre representatives and racial hucksters. Even the state's network of public education is a fašade; the Latin inscriptions of truth and literacy remain, though they appear as nothing more than the hieroglyphics of an ancient civilization. In a way, Californians will leave the Golden State as their forefathers found it - miles of coastline, majestic mountains, unrivaled wildlife - and no sign of humanity.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Lewis A. Fein